Seebold heads to Wheatland for weekend race
The Seebold name is synonymous with Formula 1 tunnel boat racing around the world. Between Bill Seebold and his son Tim, they hold many championship honors.
Hall of Famer Bill has long since retired from the high-intensity sport, but Tim continues to carry on the name in the tunnel boat-racing world. He placed third last year on the F1 tour and is set to make his mark again this year.
And it all begins this weekend at a custom-made track an hour from the Lake of the Ozarks for the first annual Lucas Oil Speedway Formula 1 North American Championships in Wheatland.
With the guidance of Tim, the Lucas Speedway boat drag strip has been transformed into an oval track that will feature as many as 13 world-class Formula 1 racers Friday and Saturday. Not only is this first time in many years the F1 tour has been in Missouri, it’s the first time it’s been within an easy drive of the lake.
Tim and his crew debuted the Seebold Sports and NGK Spark Plugs Team Seebold Formula 1 race boat this week on The Strip, but were working diligently Wednesday, into the night Wednesday and Thursday to ready the boat for testing and time trials Friday. Seebold and boat racing partner and crew chief Greg Jacobsen are also part of the Sea-Way Marine organization, also a sponsor.
“I’m super excited to be racing back in Missouri for the first time since ’08 with all of the cheering support from my family and friends,” Seebold said. “This is a purpose-built race course that provides Formula 1 with a luxury we normally do not get, and this is as close to a stadium that F1 currently has an opportunity to race on.”
Lucas Speedway is best known as a dirt track for stock cars and late-model cars. But owners saw an opportunity to a few years ago to build a boat drag strip not far from the Speedway. As the idea of establishing a tunnel boat race course evolved, they turned to Seebold and his expertise to transition the drag course to an F1 course.
“They had drag boats, but I contacted them about F1 racing,” Seebold said. “They said they didn’t know much about it and asked if I’d help. We started talking, and this weekend is the debut of the course.”
The actual water area is roughly 400 feet wide by 4,000 feet long, but the F1 course will be about two thirds that length. The width of the course certainly makes it a challenge for the dozen or so boats that will leap from a dead start when flag drops. It’s not about how fast the boat can go, Seebold explained, it’s about how quick you can get around the track. Having the pole position is key to a safe start and a win.
Seebold has two boats he is taking to Wheatland. They are virtually identical except for a slight difference in length. One is powered by a Mercury outboard and the other by a Johnson. Mercury is the standard bearer for F1 racing, but Seebold has been working for five years to modify the Johnson so it performs better than the Mercury. The Johnson has more horsepower and is faster, but the Mercury has a quicker start and accelerates to 3,000 rpms quicker. The downside is that the Johnson weighs about 100 pounds more than the workhorse Mercury and that affects performance. Also, F1 rules for tunnel boats limit the maximum post-race weight to 1,155 pounds including the driver.
At 17 feet long and 7 feet wide, Seebold’s boat is comprised of wood and carbon fiber Kevlar. The capsule, where the driver sits, is the must durable part of the boat and is made from the carbon fiber materials. Loaded with safety features, the capsule is the driver’s domain for the duration of the race. The sponsons on both sides of the capsule create the tunnel effect and are made from wood.
“We’re constantly updating the boat,” Seebold said. “It’s always evolving.”
The boat recently got a facelift because of the new sponsorships, so the boat had to be taken apart so it could be wrapped by ProDesigns, and then re-assembled. Checking every screen and every bolt, every linkage and every cable is critical to the boat’s performance, Seebold explained.
“The thing is, when I race I want everything to be perfect. We even have all the screws lined up and buffed. When I’m running at 140 miles per hour I don’t want to have to think twice about that kind of stuff,” he said.
Seebold said the support from the lake area has been “overwhelming.” People have gone out of their way to help, and have made time from their busy schedules to help. Lake TV will be on scene for the races Saturday with veteran F1 driver Bill Seebold offering color commentating, and announcing by Ed Foxmeyer from 101.9 The Wave.
Seebold says because the lake area is his home, and because of the support from family, friends and businesses, he plans to run an exhibition race at the Lake Race 2013 in June. His boat will also be on display at the Shootout in August and he’s considering some type of special exhibition run then.
He hopes for a good following of lake-area people this Friday and Saturday since he will be competing against some of the top racers in the world including Terry Rinker of Florida, Chris Fairchild of Illinois and Jose Mendana, Jr., who is also involved in the Lucas Oil project.
Seebold is just shy of his 50th birthday, but has rolled up a lot of championships in his time. He has competed on the Formula 1 circuit since 1994. Since then, he has 27 career wins, 13 championships, and has the most wins among active drivers on the circuit.
For a complete race schedule, check www.lucasoilspeedway.com